An oasis is coming to a Kansas City, Kan., food desert

When the Thriftway on Strong Avenue closed seven years ago, the Argentine neighborhood became yet another urban food desert.

Now comes relief for folks in the working-class Kansas City, Kan., enclave. Construction is set to begin as soon as this week on a 22,000-square-foot Save-A-Lot store, which Gov. Sam Brownback and other dignitaries had planned to mark with a ceremonial groundbreaking last Thursday at 2100 Metropolitan Ave.

The snow storm canceled that, but preliminary site work could begin sometime this week — starting with the demolition of an existing building.

When completed in the fall, it will be the fourth supermarket to open on the city’s east side since 2008. Prior to that string, no supermarkets had opened in the older part of town in 30 years.

“The people in the neighborhood are excited,” said Timothy Russell, executive director of the Argentine Betterment Corp., which will own the completed building for which Save-A-Lot has signed a 10-year lease. “We want this to move as fast as possible.”

Now, the closest supermarket is three miles away. For neighborhood residents without ready access to a dependable vehicle, the circuitous bus ride to get groceries can eat up half a day.

The project was no easy feat. The Argentine Neighborhood Development Association led the effort that put together the deal, whose financing relies on tax breaks, grants and formation of a community improvement district.